The 1979 directorial debut of filmmaker Nicholas Meyer, Time After Time takes place in the Victorian London on 1893. Or more specifically, it starts there. Here we meet H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell), noted futurist and time traveler extraordinaire. He's dedicated his life to ensuring that the future is a bright one. He's also created the world's first working time machine. When his invention is fit for use, he brings together Dr. John Leslie Stevenson (David Warner) and a few of his associates for a demonstration. Wells and the rest have no idea that Stevenson is actually the serial killer currently wreaking havoc in London's east end known as Jack The Ripper.
Unfortunately for Wells, the cops are closing in on the fiend. Why is this unfortunate? Because know that Stevenson knows Wells' time machine works, he coopts it for his own sinister plans and uses it to evade the police. Stevenson has, for all intents and purposes, vanished and the only one who knows how he did it is Wells. He confides in his housekeeper but otherwise keeps mum about all of this. Rather than go to the police with the information he instead decides to travel through time to catch Stevenson and bring him back to his own time to see that justice is served. This takes him to the San Francisco of 1979, obviously a very different environment than his native London of 1893, and clearly not the paradise he had hoped that the future would be. Here he meets a beautiful young woman named Amy Roberts (Mary Steenburgen) who helps Wells in his quest to find Stevenson, who appears to back up to his old tricks as a new but familiar rash of murders begins to plague San Francisco.
Past fish out of water story and part science fiction tinged thriller, Time After Time is, if nothing else, great entertainment. The film features great attention to period detail in the scenes that take place in the 1800's and in a lot of ways the picture presents some interesting contrast. The Wells of 1893 is idealistic but also naïve. He wants the best for the world and his experiences in the ‘modern age' prove that things have not gone the way he had hoped they would. There's interesting food for thought here, but there's also an impressive amount of tension and suspense worked into the storyline. This comes not just from the impressively rendered and creative chase sequences but also from the fact that as Wells closes in on Stevenson, our antagonist starts targeting those close to our antagonist. That in and of itself isn't a surprise, it's the central conflict in the film, but how this plays out is clever and engaging. There are moments in the film where, if you think about it too much, the time travel logic employed in the film is a little rocky, but why let that get to you in a work of fiction?
The performances from our two leads are great. Mary Steenburgen seems a little uninspired at times, her performance isn't particularly energetic or memorable, but McDowell and Warner are a complete blast here. McDowell's Wells is, as stated, a bit naïve but he's a good natured type and we like him. We want him to win the day and we want him to win the girl. He's quick witted and funny but so too is he noble and good of heart. Warner's Stevenson is the exact opposite. While ever part Wells' equal in terms of intelligence and cunning, Stevenson is evil and Warner plays the part with some obvious relish, without ever turning into moustache twirling high camp or parody.The Blu-ray
Time After Time is presented on a 50GB Blu-ray disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at the film's original aspect ratio of 2.40.1 widescreen. The picture quality on this disc is excellent. Taken from a new 2k scan of an interpositive, there's a lot of detail here and considerable and impressive upgrades over the DVD in that area as well as in texture and depth. Color reproduction looks spot on, never artificially boosted or brightened, and black levels are nice and inky. There are no problems with any obvious compression artifacts nor is there any obvious edge enhancement or noise reduction. The image is very clean, showing nothing outside of the odd white speck here and there in terms of print damage, while a nice and natural amount of film grain is evident throughout. Detail understandably drops a bit in the scenes with heavy optical effects in use, but you can't fault the film for that, it's simply a product of its time in that regard. Really, it's hard to find much fault here. This is a great looking picture.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 track. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH only. This is a solid track. Dialogue is clean, clear and properly balanced and there are no issues to note with any hiss or distortion. The film's score has good bounce to it and the sound effects and foley effects used in the film are mixed in well enough so that they have the proper impact without burying the performers.Extras:
The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with Nicholas Meyer and Malcolm McDowell carried over from the previous DVD release. The participants were recorded separately and then edited into one track so we don't really get anything in the way of a conversation between the two. Having said that, this is a reasonably interesting commentary. Meyer talks about making his directorial debut with this film, some of the pressure he found himself under, his thoughts on the script and what it was like working with some high caliber talent on the film in front of and behind the camera. McDowell spends a lot of time talking about working with Mary Steenburgen on the film, how their relationship developed and eventually turned into a marriage (and then a divorce). He also talks about Meyer's directing style and his thoughts on working with David Warner.
Outside of that we get the film's original trailer, menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of Time After Time comes up a bit short in the extras department (though it does at least carry over the commentary and include the trailer) but it sure does look and sound really nice. The movie itself is a really fun watch, solid entertainment through and through. The production values are good, the performances from McDowell and Warner are excellent and the film's mix of humor, suspense and sci-fi thrills is a winning combination. Recommended!